Stephen maintained a precarious hold on power but agreed to a compromise under which Matilda's son Henry would succeed him. Henry accordingly became the first Angevin king of England and the first monarch of the Plantagenet dynasty as Henry II in The reigns of most of the Angevin monarchs were marred by civil strife and conflicts between the monarch and the nobility. Nevertheless, Henry managed to expand his kingdom, forming what is retrospectively known as the Angevin Empire. Upon Henry's death, his elder son Richard succeeded to the throne; he was absent from England for most of his reign, as he left to fight in the Crusades.
He was killed besieging a castle, and John succeeded him. John's reign was marked by conflict with the barons, particularly over the limits of royal power. In , the barons coerced the king into issuing Magna Carta Latin for "Great Charter" to guarantee the rights and liberties of the nobility. Soon afterwards, further disagreements plunged England into a civil war known as the First Barons' War. The war ended in a clear royalist victory and in the death of many rebels, but not before the king had agreed to summon a parliament in The next monarch, Edward Longshanks , was far more successful in maintaining royal power and responsible for the conquest of Wales.
He attempted to establish English domination of Scotland. However, gains in Scotland were reversed during the reign of his successor, Edward II , who also faced conflict with the nobility. His year-old son became Edward III. His campaigns conquered much French territory, but by , all the gains had been lost. Edward's reign was also marked by the further development of Parliament, which came to be divided into two Houses. Like many of his predecessors, Richard II conflicted with the nobles by attempting to concentrate power in his own hands. In , while he was campaigning in Ireland, his cousin Henry Bolingbroke seized power.
Richard was deposed, imprisoned, and eventually murdered, probably by starvation, and Henry became king as Henry IV. For most of his reign, Henry IV was forced to fight off plots and rebellions; his success was partly due to the military skill of his son, the future Henry V. Henry V's own reign, which began in , was largely free from domestic strife, leaving the king free to pursue the Hundred Years' War in France.
Although he was victorious, his sudden death in left his infant son Henry VI on the throne and gave the French an opportunity to overthrow English rule. The unpopularity of Henry VI's counsellors and his belligerent consort, Margaret of Anjou , as well as his own ineffectual leadership, led to the weakening of the House of Lancaster.
Edward V disappeared, presumably murdered by Richard. Through skill and ability, Henry re-established absolute supremacy in the realm, and the conflicts with the nobility that had plagued previous monarchs came to an end. Religious upheaval and disputes with the Pope led the monarch to break from the Roman Catholic Church and to establish the Church of England the Anglican Church.
Wales — which had been conquered centuries earlier, but had remained a separate dominion — was annexed to England under the Laws in Wales Acts and He was wary of allowing his Catholic elder half-sister Mary I to succeed, and therefore drew up a will designating Lady Jane Grey as his heiress. Jane's reign, however, lasted only nine days; with tremendous popular support, Mary deposed her and declared herself the lawful sovereign.
Mary I married Philip of Spain , who was declared king and co-ruler, pursued disastrous wars in France and attempted to return England to Roman Catholicism, burning Protestants at the stake as heretics in the process. Upon her death in , the pair were succeeded by her Protestant half-sister Elizabeth I. England returned to Protestantism and continued its growth into a major world power by building its navy and exploring the New World.
In Scotland, as in England, monarchies emerged after the withdrawal of the Roman empire from Britain in the early fifth century. Kenneth MacAlpin is traditionally viewed as the first king of a united Scotland known as Scotia to writers in Latin, or Alba to the Scots. Early Scottish monarchs did not inherit the Crown directly; instead the custom of tanistry was followed, where the monarchy alternated between different branches of the House of Alpin.
As a result, however, the rival dynastic lines clashed, often violently. From to , seven consecutive monarchs were either murdered or killed in battle. He continued to ruthlessly eliminate opposition, and when he died in he was succeeded by his grandson, Duncan I , instead of a cousin, as had been usual. In , Duncan suffered defeat in battle at the hands of Macbeth , who was killed himself in by Duncan's son Malcolm. With a further series of battles and deposings, five of Malcolm's sons as well as one of his brothers successively became king.
Eventually, the Crown came to his youngest son, David I. In exchange for his release, William was forced to acknowledge Henry as his feudal overlord. The English King Richard I agreed to terminate the arrangement in , in return for a large sum of money needed for the Crusades. Alexander III's unexpected death in a riding accident in precipitated a major succession crisis.
Scottish leaders appealed to King Edward I of England for help in determining who was the rightful heir. Edward chose Alexander's three-year-old Norwegian granddaughter, Margaret.
On her way to Scotland in , however, Margaret died at sea, and Edward was again asked to adjudicate between 13 rival claimants to the throne. A court was set up and after two years of deliberation, it pronounced John Balliol to be king.
Edward proceeded to treat Balliol as a vassal, and tried to exert influence over Scotland. In , when Balliol renounced his allegiance to England, Edward I invaded. During the first ten years of the ensuing Wars of Scottish Independence , Scotland had no monarch, until Robert the Bruce declared himself king in Robert's efforts to control Scotland culminated in success, and Scottish independence was acknowledged in However, only one year later, Robert died and was succeeded by his five-year-old son, David II.
On the pretext of restoring John Balliol's rightful heir, Edward Balliol , the English again invaded in During the next four years, Balliol was crowned, deposed, restored, deposed, restored, and deposed until he eventually settled in England, and David remained king for the next 35 years. Having paid a large ransom, James returned to Scotland in ; to restore his authority, he used ruthless measures, including the execution of several of his enemies. He was assassinated by a group of nobles.
James II continued his father's policies by subduing influential noblemen but he was killed in an accident at the age of thirty, and a council of regents again assumed power. James III was defeated in a battle against rebellious Scottish earls in , leading to another boy-king: His forces met with disaster at Flodden Field ; the King, many senior noblemen, and hundreds of soldiers were killed.
As his son and successor, James V , was an infant, the government was again taken over by regents.
Functions of monarchies
James V led another disastrous war with the English in , and his death in the same year left the Crown in the hands of his six-day-old daughter, Mary I. Once again, a regency was established. Mary, a Roman Catholic, reigned during a period of great religious upheaval in Scotland. As a result of the efforts of reformers such as John Knox , a Protestant ascendancy was established. Mary caused alarm by marrying her Catholic cousin, Lord Darnley , in After Lord Darnley's assassination in , Mary contracted an even more unpopular marriage with the Earl of Bothwell , who was widely suspected of Darnley's murder.
The nobility rebelled against the Queen, forcing her to abdicate. Mary was imprisoned and later executed by the English queen Elizabeth I.
Elizabeth I's death in ended Tudor rule in England. Since she had no children, she was succeeded by the Scottish monarch James VI , who was the great-grandson of Henry VIII 's older sister and hence Elizabeth's first cousin twice removed. Although England and Scotland were in personal union under one monarch — James I became the first monarch to style himself "King of Great Britain" in  — they remained two separate kingdoms. James I's successor, Charles I , experienced frequent conflicts with the English Parliament related to the issue of royal and parliamentary powers, especially the power to impose taxes.
He provoked opposition by ruling without Parliament from to , unilaterally levying taxes and adopting controversial religious policies many of which were offensive to the Scottish Presbyterians and the English Puritans. His attempt to enforce Anglicanism led to organised rebellion in Scotland the " Bishops' Wars " and ignited the Wars of the Three Kingdoms. The Civil War culminated in the execution of the king in , the overthrow of the English monarchy, and the establishment of the Commonwealth of England.
In , Oliver Cromwell , the most prominent military and political leader in the nation, seized power and declared himself Lord Protector effectively becoming a military dictator, but refusing the title of king. Cromwell ruled until his death in , when he was succeeded by his son Richard.
The new Lord Protector had little interest in governing; he soon resigned. In , the monarchy was restored and Charles II returned to Britain. Charles II's reign was marked by the development of the first modern political parties in England. Charles had no legitimate children, and was due to be succeeded by his Roman Catholic brother, James, Duke of York. A parliamentary effort to exclude James from the line of succession arose; the "Petitioners", who supported exclusion, became the Whig Party, whereas the "Abhorrers", who opposed exclusion, became the Tory Party.
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The Exclusion Bill failed; on several occasions, Charles II dissolved Parliament because he feared that the bill might pass. After the dissolution of the Parliament of , Charles ruled without a Parliament until his death in When James succeeded Charles, he pursued a policy of offering religious tolerance to Roman Catholics, thereby drawing the ire of many of his Protestant subjects.
Many opposed James's decisions to maintain a large standing army, to appoint Roman Catholics to high political and military offices, and to imprison Church of England clerics who challenged his policies. William obliged, arriving in England on 5 November to great public support. James's overthrow, known as the Glorious Revolution , was one of the most important events in the long evolution of parliamentary power. The Bill of Rights affirmed parliamentary supremacy, and declared that the English people held certain rights, including the freedom from taxes imposed without parliamentary consent.
The Bill of Rights required future monarchs to be Protestants, and provided that, after any children of William and Mary, Mary's sister Anne would inherit the Crown. Mary died childless in , leaving William as the sole monarch. By , a political crisis arose, as all of Anne's children had died, leaving her as the only individual left in the line of succession. Parliament was afraid that the former James II or his supporters, known as Jacobites , might attempt to reclaim the throne.
Parliament passed the Act of Settlement , which excluded James and his Catholic relations from the succession and made William's nearest Protestant relations, the family of Sophia, Electress of Hanover , next in line to the throne after his sister-in-law Anne. After Anne's accession, the problem of the succession re-emerged.
The Scottish Parliament, infuriated that the English Parliament did not consult them on the choice of Sophia's family as the next heirs, passed the Act of Security , threatening to end the personal union between England and Scotland. The Parliament of England retaliated with the Alien Act , threatening to devastate the Scottish economy by restricting trade. The Scottish and English parliaments negotiated the Acts of Union , under which England and Scotland were united into a single Kingdom of Great Britain , with succession under the rules prescribed by the Act of Settlement.
In , Queen Anne was succeeded by her second cousin, and Sophia's son, George I , Elector of Hanover , who consolidated his position by defeating Jacobite rebellions in and The new monarch was less active in government than many of his British predecessors, but retained control over his German kingdoms, with which Britain was now in personal union. During the long reign of his grandson, George III , Britain's American colonies were lost, the former colonies having formed the United States of America , but British influence elsewhere in the world continued to grow, and the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland was created by the Acts of Union From to , George III suffered a severe bout of what is now believed to be porphyria , an illness rendering him incapable of ruling.
During the Regency and his own reign, the power of the monarchy declined, and by the time of his successor, William IV , the monarch was no longer able to effectively interfere with parliamentary power. In the ensuing elections, however, Peel lost. The king had no choice but to recall Lord Melbourne.
During William IV's reign, the Reform Act , which reformed parliamentary representation, was passed. Together with others passed later in the century, the Act led to an expansion of the electoral franchise and the rise of the House of Commons as the most important branch of Parliament. The final transition to a constitutional monarchy was made during the long reign of William IV's successor, Victoria. As a woman, Victoria could not rule Hanover , which only permitted succession in the male line, so the personal union of the United Kingdom and Hanover came to an end.
The Victorian era was marked by great cultural change, technological progress, and the establishment of the United Kingdom as one of the world's foremost powers. However, her reign was also marked by increased support for the republican movement , due in part to Victoria's permanent mourning and lengthy period of seclusion following the death of her husband in George V's reign was marked by the separation of Ireland into Northern Ireland, which remained a part of the United Kingdom, and the Irish Free State , an independent nation, in During the twentieth century, the Commonwealth of Nations evolved from the British Empire.
The Balfour Declaration of gave complete self-government to the Dominions, effectively creating a system whereby a single monarch operated independently in each separate Dominion. The concept was solidified by the Statute of Westminster ,  which has been likened to "a treaty among the Commonwealth countries". The monarchy thus ceased to be an exclusively British institution, although it is often still referred to as "British" for legal and historical reasons and for convenience. The monarch became separately monarch of the United Kingdom, monarch of Canada , monarch of Australia , and so forth.
The independent states within the Commonwealth would share the same monarch in a relationship likened to a personal union. Accordingly, Edward announced his intention to abdicate ; the Parliaments of the United Kingdom and of other Commonwealth countries granted his request. At first, every member of the Commonwealth retained the same monarch as the United Kingdom, but when the Dominion of India became a republic in , it would no longer share in a common monarchy.
Instead, the British monarch was acknowledged as " Head of the Commonwealth " in all Commonwealth member states, whether they were realms or republics. The position is purely ceremonial, and is not inherited by the British monarch as of right but is vested in an individual chosen by the Commonwealth heads of government. The pope wanted the English monarch to annex Ireland and bring the Irish church into line with Rome, despite this process already underway in Ireland by Diarmait asked Henry II for help, gaining a group of Anglo-Norman aristocrats and adventurers, led by Richard de Clare, 2nd Earl of Pembroke , to help him regain his throne.
Diarmait and his Anglo-Norman allies succeeded and he became King of Leinster again. Many of the latter became completely Gaelicised, and did not recognise England's kings except perhaps nominally. The pope's grant of Ireland to the English monarch became invalid, so Henry summoned a meeting of the Irish Parliament to change his title from Lord of Ireland to King of Ireland.
Nevertheless, Ireland retained its own parliament, becoming an independent state in Confederate Ireland , and again in Only warfare such as the Williamite War in Ireland and subsequent occupation enabled the English crown from , and successive British states from , to retain the country. The whole island of Ireland continued to be a part of the United Kingdom until , when what is now the Republic of Ireland won independence as the Irish Free State , a separate Dominion within the Commonwealth.
Northern Ireland remained within the Union. In the s, republicanism in the United Kingdom grew, partly on account of negative publicity associated with the Royal Family for instance, immediately following the death of Diana, Princess of Wales. The sovereign is the Supreme Governor of the established Church of England.
Archbishops and bishops are appointed by the monarch, on the advice of the Prime Minister, who chooses the appointee from a list of nominees prepared by a Church Commission. The Crown's role in the Church of England is titular; the most senior clergyman, the Archbishop of Canterbury , is the spiritual leader of the Church and of the worldwide Anglican Communion. The relationship between the Commonwealth realms is such that any change to the laws governing succession to the shared throne requires the unanimous consent of all the realms.
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Succession is governed by statutes such as the Bill of Rights , the Act of Settlement and the Acts of Union The rules of succession may only be changed by an Act of Parliament ; it is not possible for an individual to renounce his or her right of succession. The Act of Settlement restricts the succession to the legitimate Protestant descendants of Sophia of Hanover — , a granddaughter of James I. Upon the death of a sovereign, his or her heir immediately and automatically succeeds hence the phrase " The king is dead, long live the king!
The monarch is usually crowned in Westminster Abbey , normally by the Archbishop of Canterbury. A coronation is not necessary for a sovereign to reign; indeed, the ceremony usually takes place many months after accession to allow sufficient time for its preparation and for a period of mourning. After an individual ascends the throne, he or she reigns until death. Succession was largely governed by male-preference cognatic primogeniture , under which sons inherit before daughters, and elder children inherit before younger ones of the same gender.
The Prime Minister of the United Kingdom , David Cameron , announced at the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting that all 16 Commonwealth realms , including the United Kingdom, had agreed to abolish the gender-preference rule for anyone born after the date of the meeting, 28 October However, since the monarch is also the Supreme Governor of the Church of England , the law which prohibits a Roman Catholic from acceding to the throne remains. Though Catholics are prohibited from succeeding and are deemed "naturally dead" for succession purposes, the disqualification does not extend to the individual's legitimate Protestant descendants.
The Regency Acts allow for regencies in the event of a monarch who is a minor or who is physically or mentally incapacitated. When a regency is necessary, the next qualified individual in the line of succession automatically becomes regent, unless they themselves are a minor or incapacitated.
Special provisions were made for Queen Elizabeth II by the Regency Act , which stated that the Duke of Edinburgh the Queen's husband could act as regent in these circumstances. During a temporary physical infirmity or an absence from the kingdom, the sovereign may temporarily delegate some of his or her functions to Counsellors of State , the monarch's spouse and the first four adults in the line of succession.
Monarchy of the United Kingdom
The present Counsellors of State are: Until the monarch met all official expenses from hereditary revenues, which included the profits of the Crown Estate the royal property portfolio. King George III agreed to surrender the hereditary revenues of the Crown in return for the Civil List , and this arrangement persisted until An annual Property Services grant-in-aid paid for the upkeep of the royal residences, and an annual Royal Travel Grant-in-Aid paid for travel. The Civil List covered most expenses, including those for staffing, state visits, public engagements, and official entertainment. Its size was fixed by Parliament every 10 years; any money saved was carried forward to the next year period.
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